Battle of wills playing out within 'Wallabies

WAYNE MARTIN
Last updated 13:00 27/09/2012

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OPINION: It's probably a coin toss as to whether Quade Cooper or Robbie Deans is in the most precarious position at present.

Cooper's apparently offside with both Deans and the Australian Rugby Union, not helped by recent Twitter comments by the Wallabies' controversial No 10 about "toxic" Wallabies team environments, prompting suggestions that he could be entertaining notions of heading to league.

For a player who hides on defence in rugby union, what's suddenly going to make him a defensive rock in league?

He'd undoubtedly suit the more open style of play, but you don't always have the ball in hand. Sometimes, you just have to man up and face those defensive responsibilities head on.

As for Deans, he obviously still has the ARU's tentative backing, despite Ewen McKenzie's ample frame constantly shadowing him at every turn.

Deans has an uncanny knack of picking up a crucial win every time he looks set to lurch over the precipice.

He can't find the key to beating the All Blacks at present - and he's clearly not alone there - however, the Wallabies latest win over the Springboks in Perth and their subsequent late recovery against the Pumas on the Gold Coast have helped to ease some of the pressure, temporarily at least.

It's hard to imagine having to constantly operate in that sort of pressure-cooker environment.

Players at least have some control over their own destiny, which relates primarily to showing some form on the park, irrespective of the team's overall success.

And, judging by his confused efforts against the Pumas, Cooper's currently well short of the mark.

A coach can plan, coax, encourage and try to conjure up some sort of winning formula. Then it's up to the players to buy into it, implement it and try to make the coach look good.

You might argue that Deans has been operating with some dodgy raw material and, given Cooper's recent outburst, is there any credence to his claims of apparent disharmony festering within the camp? Whatever the reality, it can't be doing Deans' mental state any good, particularly when you're having to dodge bullets from your own players.

A winning camp is generally a happy one, and there's just a little too much unpredictability surrounding the Wallabies at present to confidently suggest that Deans has his hand firmly on the rudder.

While he's not shying away from the fight, he can't ever have imagined that taking charge of one of world rugby's leading teams would be so fraught with controversy and, at times, acrimony.

He's said previously that it's all part of the package, but his glory days with the Crusaders - who he coached to five Super titles - must now seem light years away.

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Deans can distance himself from Cooper by not selecting him. But no-one's yet found the means to control the social media, or Cooper's mouth.

- The Nelson Mail

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